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Tutorial -- If you have problems

I won't begin to pretend that this tutorial will answer all of your questions or that the modifications I offer will fulfill all of your requests. But there is a great place for you to get your questions answered and ask for help in creating your own modifications -- the Gossamer Threads support forum.

There is an art to asking a question on the forum which will get you an answer much more quickly. If you follow these guidelines in asking your question, you'll help us help you.

Try to give a descriptive title to your post.
It's a lot easier to answer your question if I have some idea of what you need before I even read what you wrote. It is also helpful to others who might have a similar problem.
Give us the information we need
If you give the following information, it will help us immeasurably.
  • What kind of error message, if any, did you see?
  • What kind of system are you running the script on -- Unix? Windows 95/98? Windows NT? Mac?
  • What modifications have you made to the script, if any?
  • Are you using the "autogenerate" feature for the forms and record displays?
  • What have you already done to try to fix the problem?
Don't say "It doesn't work."
That tells me nothing. How doesn't it work? Did you get an error message? Do you get a blank page? Are your fields empty when they should have something in them? Do you get a "no matching records" message when you search for something you know is there?
If possible, give us access to your database.
Post a URL where we can access the database to see for ourselves what problem you're having. There are many little tricks I use to track down errors and I have to have access to the database in order to use them. If you are really concerned about posting a URL for your database, you can send me private mail (there's a link to my email address on the forum) and I will go check things out. Be aware, though, that often email gets lost in the volume of mail I receive. You will have more luck if you post things to the forum. Also, sometimes I'm not available and someone else will be able to help you. There are a lot of nice folks on the forum.
If possible, give us access to your files.
Often all it takes is a glance at your default.cfg file or html.pl file to know what the problem is. However, on most systems it is not possible to directly access the files from the cgi-bin. Make copies of your scripts -- usually just the default.cfg and html.pl files are necessary -- and place them in a web-accessible directory. A web-accessible directory is one where you would normally place .html pages. Rename your files so that they have a .txt extension -- default_cfg.txt and html_pl.txt. Then post the location of your files to the forum.
If you're asking for a modification, be as complete as you can.
Explain in as much detail as possible what you want to accomplish. I will do my best to give you what you want, but I must admit that I resent working on a modification to give someone what they asked for and then they tell me they want something else. If you tell me what you want up front, you'll be much more likely to get it.

Also, don't try to be too cryptic in your description. Use examples of actual data you're going to use. I know that sometimes people don't want someone else to steal their ideas, but, after all, you are getting free help. Eventually you'll probably need to tell us what you're really doing anyway, so you might as well tell us up front.

Speaking of examples, give examples if you can. It helps to picture what it is you want. It is especially helpful if you can write out a little narrative of what you envision the mod will do for you.

After a user logs in, I would like the script to check to see if the user already has a record in the database. If he doesn't, the script will automatically send the user to the add form. If he does, the script will automatically send him to the modify form. I would also like to have a checkbox on that same page that the user can select to delete his record.
Be polite.
We're only human and respond better to those who treat us well. It's very nice to read "Thank you" in response to help I have given someone. It is even more important to me that you tell me whether my help did you any good, especially when I have posted a long modification to the forum. I usually try to remember to check the code I give you for syntax errors, but I rarely test it out on a real database. I don't know for certain if the code will work or not. I will admit that I resent spending a lot of time giving someone code for a modification when the recipient cannot be bothered to come back to the forum to tell me that it actually worked. No one seems to have a problem with taking the time to tell me that I messed something up, but they often forget about the forum as soon as their problem is solved until they come up with another problem. I don't forget, though. I will usually answer questions of those who have been rude to me, but I won't do much to go out of my way for them.

I don't personally care for "Thanks in advance." If I am willing to take the time to answer your question, it isn't a whole lot for you to hit the reply and say "Thank you." But that's just me.

Tell me if it works. I find it very frustrating to spend time working on a modification for someone and then never hearing whether it did the trick or not. Realize that I often spend several hours answering an individual question on the forum. It doesn't take much to come back and tell me that the code is what you needed.

Please do not offer money for an answer to your question. The forum is free and no one will give your problem any more consideration just because you tell them you'll pay them if they do.

Another thing I resent is when people tell me they're "too lazy" to do it for themselves or to search the forum for previous posts. If you can't be bothered to take the time to work on your own database, why should I? There are few greater feelings in the world than solving the problem for yourself. If you think you have a solution, try it. As long as you keep backup copies of your scripts, you can't hurt anything. If it doesn't do what you wanted it to, come to the forum and let us know what you did. It's likely that you just had a small error that someone else will be able to fix very quickly. And you can still say that you did it yourself.

  The basic tools

Some basics of Perl

  Install the demo

Create your own forms and displays

  Create your own configuration

Fancier formatting

  Set permissions

How to install a mod

If you need help

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